Pinecrest Drops IB Program
The Moore County school system is pulling the plug on Pinecrest High School's International Baccalaureate (IB) program, citing declining enrollment and other factors.
Superintendent Susan Purser and Pinecrest principal Joel County met with The Pilot Friday morning to discuss the decision, which Purser said was made for a variety of reasons.
Besides low participation in the diploma program, Purser said "being practical" with the resources was another consideration.
Purser said the IB program has been a topic of conversation since she became superintendent five years ago. The school system has attempted to give the program time to catch on by making adjustments and improvements, but ultimately students have chosen not to participate.
"It always falls to selection by the students as to who wants to pursue this program," Purser said. "A brand-new program needs a period of time for the word to get out and for people to buy into the program. So we have been looking and protecting that enrollment over a period of time.
"When we look at the data, the enrollment in that program has continued to decline rather than grow. ... There is a point in time when we need to make a practical decision."
Purser said the diploma program's highest enrollment has been 26 students, but this year, only 4 students out of some 2,000 at the school have pursued the program. A total of 14 have expressed interest in pursuing the program in the future.
"The school system has spent about $200,000 on the IB program at Pinecrest over the past three years," Purser said. "That does not include personnel costs, because we would figure that teachers will be teachers anyway. That would be for materials, supplies, test costs, staff development -- that sort of thing. That is the money the district has put out of its own budget into the program at the high school. The school has supplemented that somewhat, though I don't have that figure."
In any case, Purser said the decision was not solely based on budgetary concerns. She will present her proposed 2009-2010 budget to the school board Monday night.
Those currently enrolled in the diploma program will be allowed to complete it. Additionally, those taking IB classes that carry over to next year will be allowed to complete them in their entirety.
Outside the 14 students who want to complete the diploma program, Purser wouldn't say how many other students currently take IB courses "a la carte," which will no longer be an option either. It is believed to be several hundred students.
Purser said that because Pinecrest offers a wide variety of other courses, including Advanced Placement and Honors classes, she believes the 14 students who will not be able to pursue a diploma would be the only ones truly affected.
No changes will be made to Southern Middle's IB Middle Years Program, which Purser said was "extremely successful." While there are consistencies in the curriculum, she said one is not totally dependent on the other.
Failed to Meet Mandate
County said he informed the 17 IB instructors at Pinecrest of the decision Thursday afternoon. He said they were disappointed.
He and Purser praised the efforts of the staff, but County said the program fell short of the goals set by the Moore County Board of Education in November. It mandated a minimum enrollment in the diploma program of 24 students per class -- grades 11 and 12 -- starting with the 2009-2010 school year if the program was to continue.
"There's got to be a means of measuring success, and there's got to be guidelines to grow a program," County said. "The board finally gave us guidelines ... and we didn't meet the guidelines. The kids vote with their feet, and not enough of them voted with their feet to meet the guidelines."
None of those teachers will be out of a job but will instead teach other similar courses.
The merits of the IB program have been debated since the program's inception at the school.
IB supporters argue that the program meets the needs of a wider array of students by offering a well-rounded curriculum that includes oral and essay testing and community service requirements. They say its rigorous course load offers better preparation for college work than the standardized tests required by the Advanced Placement (AP) program.
IB offers a universal curriculum around the world, which is considered attractive to military families, who move around often.
Opponents, however, claim the IB program is overly expensive and benefits only the handful of students who pursue and complete the IB diploma program.
They say IB requires an inordinate amount of work that doesn't always pay off in the end. They believe the AP program, which is less expensive, provides more opportunities for college credit. They argue that Pinecrest's historically strong AP program has been weakened by the presence of IB and the melding of IB and AP curriculums.
'Losing Great Program'
The decision is sure to draw the ire of IB supporters -- parents and students alike -- who have feared the program was in jeopardy. Many expressed their concerns at a school board meeting in October.
One of those parents, Jennifer Berk, said she was disappointed to hear about the school system's decision when contacted by phone Friday.
"It's saddening to me as I think they're losing a great program," she said. "It's not just bad for the school but bad for the whole community."
She said the decision would prove to be most disappointing for the students, who she says are being denied the opportunity to experience a modern, international learning environment.
"I don't think the impact of this decision has been thought through," she said.
Purser was quick to assert that the decision to discontinue IB had nothing to do with any purported conflicts between the programs or individuals, nor is it a sign that the school system caved to one particular viewpoint.
"This is not an AP-IB issue," she said. "This is not a [school] board-teachers issue. It is looking in a very practical way at what we are offering, and we are not diminishing the quality of what is provided at Pinecrest High School at all."
Contact John Krahnert III at 693-2473 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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